Glaucoma is a serious ocular disorder that can lead to extensive vision loss and blindness if left untreated. However, while there is currently no cure for this eye disorder, there are several treatments that can delay the progression of the disease to prevent the total loss of vision. Learn more about available glaucoma treatment at Southside Medical Center in Atlanta, GA before you schedule an appointment with an optometrist.
How Effective Is Glaucoma Treatment?
When glaucoma treatment is implemented early, it can be a very effective way to preserve your vision. Catching glaucoma early can prevent vision loss and help you keep your vision healthy for as long as possible. While glaucoma treatments won’t reverse vision loss or cure glaucoma, the treatments are still effective in preventing blindness.
What Are Common Treatments for Glaucoma?
Although science is still a long way away from curing glaucoma, there are a few treatment options patients can explore after receiving a glaucoma diagnosis. Patients should select the treatment option that best suits the severity of their eye disease progression, as well as the treatment that is most appropriate for their lifestyle. These treatments include:
Medicated Eye Drops
Medicated eye drops are the most common treatment option for people who have been diagnosed with glaucoma. Prescription eye drops are primarily formulated with chemicals that reduce eye pressure, although most will work in different ways. Eye drops containing prostaglandins are designed to increase fluid outflow in the eye, while beta-blocker eye drops reduce fluid production in the eye.
Some eye drops are made with alpha-adrenergic agonists, which simultaneously reduce fluid production inside the eye and increase fluid outflow. Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors and rho kinase inhibitors also reduce the production of fluid in the eye to lower eye pressure. Miotic and cholinergic agents also increase fluid outflow from the eye.
How Long Do You Have to Use Eye Drops?
If you are using medicated eye drops for glaucoma treatment, you will likely need to use these eye drops for the rest of your life. Because these eye drops are designed to reduce eye pressure, you will have to use these eye drops daily to regulate intraocular pressure. You may be able to stop using medicated eye drops if you decide to undergo a different glaucoma treatment, such as surgery.
Sometimes, medicated eye drops alone are not strong enough to reduce eye pressure. A more consistent treatment option may be an oral medication such as a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor, which may be paired with medicated eye drops to better manage increased intraocular eye pressure. Oral medications may not be a good option for all patients, especially patients with certain pre-existing conditions.
Laser treatments may be a good option to open drainage channels in the eye, which will then reduce eye pressure by increasing fluid outflow. There are several light and laser therapy options, including Argon Laser trabeculoplasty, selective laser trabeculoplasty, trans-scleral photocoagulation, laser iridotomy, and peripheral iridoplasty.
Laser treatments may be recommended if the patient is unable to tolerate oral medications or prescription eye drops. Sometimes, an optometrist may recommend laser treatment before medicated eye drops, simply because a laser treatment can produce longer-lasting results. One or both eyes affected by glaucoma can be treated on the same day, depending on patient preference.
What Should You Expect After Laser Eye Treatment?
After laser treatment for glaucoma, you will generally be able to resume your normal daily activities, except for driving. Immediately after your treatment, your vision will likely be too blurry to safely operate a motor vehicle, so you will need to arrange for transportation back home. Your optometrist may also recommend wearing sunglasses or using a cold compress on the eyes for the first day or so after your treatment.
The results of your treatment will usually be detectable after four to six weeks. You will need to attend a follow-up appointment with your optometrist to test your intraocular eye pressure. Sometimes, a second laser treatment may be necessary to reduce your eye pressure to a desired level. You may also be instructed to continue using medicated eye drops or oral medications until your optometrist is satisfied with your results.
For some patients, eye surgery for glaucoma may be the most appropriate option. Glaucoma eye surgery can include a traditional trabeculoplasty, which opens a drainage channel in the eye to continually drain eye pressure, or a goniotomy, which is surgery for glaucoma that is performed on infants and children.
Another surgical option is the insertion of a drainage tube in the eye, which helps the eye drain excess fluid to maintain lower eye pressure. A procedure called minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS) can also be used to lower your eye pressure; this procedure is sometimes combined with cataract surgery.
What Is Recovery After Eye Surgery Like?
Your recovery period after glaucoma eye surgery will be more intensive than your recovery after laser treatment. Most people will be instructed to wear an eye shield to prevent bumping the eye during the healing process. The timeline for your recovery process will depend on your eye pressure, which is why you will have several follow-up appointments during your recovery.
Most people should be able to go to work after one to two weeks. Activities such as watching TV, using smart devices, and reading should be delayed until a few days after your procedure. You may also need to avoid showering or washing the face with hot water for a few days after your procedure. Strenuous activity, bending, lifting, wearing eye makeup, and using reusable contact lenses are all prohibited during your recovery period.
What Percentage of Glaucoma Patients Go Blind?
For people who have glaucoma and do not pursue any form of treatment, blindness is inevitable. Even for patients who receive treatment, the likelihood of going blind is about 15% to 20% in one or both eyes within 20 years of diagnosis. The greater the intraocular pressure, the faster glaucoma will progress. This is why many optometrists will recommend more aggressive treatment options when possible to prevent blindness or further delay the progression of vision loss.
Who Is At Risk for Glaucoma?
While glaucoma can sometimes be an inherited eye disease, there are several risk factors associated with this condition. People who are at a higher risk of developing glaucoma include people who are older than 60, people who have a history of eye trauma and eye surgery, people who are near-sighted or far-sighted, and people who have diseases that affect the whole body, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. If you have a history of using steroid medications, you may also be at higher risk.
Sometimes, your demographic can also put you at a higher risk of developing this eye disease. People of African American and Hispanic descent, as well as people of East Asian and Southeast Asian descent, are more likely to develop glaucoma. People who have a close relative diagnosed with glaucoma are also at high risk.
What Are Glaucoma Symptoms?
This eye condition can present as open-angle glaucoma, angle-closure glaucoma, and normal tension glaucoma. Many people who have mild glaucoma may not show any symptoms at all for several years, only to then experience rapid changes in the quality of their vision.
The earliest symptoms of this eye disease include low contrast vision difficulties and the loss of peripheral vision. Advanced symptoms of this eye condition include loss of the visual field, blind spots, and central vision loss. Some forms of glaucoma can cause blurred vision, headaches, rainbows and halos, and nausea.
How Is This Eye Disease Diagnosed?
It’s estimated that about 50% of glaucoma patients are undiagnosed, which is why it’s very important to schedule regular eye exams starting at age 40, especially for people in high-risk categories. To diagnose glaucoma, you will have to attend an eye exam for glaucoma which will measure your eye pressure, the drainage angle of your eye, and the condition of your optic nerve. Your eye exam will also include tests to measure the thickness of your cornea and the acuity of your peripheral vision.
Schedule Your Optometry Appointment Today
If you are a patient with glaucoma, the best way to preserve your vision is to find a treatment that can slow the progression of this eye disease. You will need to attend a consultation and complete an eye exam to determine which treatment option is most appropriate for you. Contact Southside Medical Center in Atlanta, GA to schedule your initial optometry appointment today.